AccelerateEd draft of recommendations for reopening schools could cost more than some districts can afford

AccelerateEd draft of recommendations for reopening schools could cost more than some districts can afford
AccelerateED is accepting input on these recommendations until Thursday at 10 am. (Source: WIS)

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - AccelerateED’s extensive draft on reopening schools includes dozens of new safety and cleaning procedures, but one big concern from schools is whether they’ll have enough money to implement all of the recommendations.

In fact, the task force acknowledges in its proposal that facility improvements will likely cost more than many districts can afford.

“We were strapped with funding prior to COVID-19, so any type of funding that’s going to have to happen per COVID is going to have to come from somewhere,” said Sherry East, president of the South Carolina Education Association.

The 202-page draft includes installing HVAC filtering systems and hand sanitizer stations throughout buildings. It also recommends a full disinfecting fog or spraying of classrooms twice a day and wiping down surfaces before class changes.

“I think the cost to disinfect and keep classrooms clean is a lot higher than you are normally used to,” Chesterfield County Superintendent Harrison Goodwin said. “In a high school that’s going to be a mammoth task to touch all of those items that need to be touched.”

All schools in the state are advised to hire a full time nurse, and data shows 166 schools currently do not have one.

Necessary meal changes, like eating pre-packaged meals inside classrooms, are also up for consideration.

“Not only is the cost higher per meal, but labor hours to put those meals together is very intensive,” Harrison explained.

The proposal suggests buses not exceed 50 percent capacity, which will require more routes and drivers.

“If you end up double or triple routing buses depending on how long it takes us to transport students, you couldn’t start school at 9 or 9:30,” Fairfield County Superintendent J.R. Green said.

Parents are being asked to drive their children to school, if possible.

Other recommendations include asking parents to conduct self-screenings and take their children’s temperatures before sending them to school, requiring employees to wear masks when they are not able to social distance, having teachers rotate classes instead of students, alternating days of student schedules and the possibility of a hybrid of E-learning and classroom instruction.

AccelerateEd is asking the General Assembly to consider creating a health and safety infrastructure grant to make additional resources available to districts.

>> READ THE FULL DRAFT OF AccelerateED RECOMMENDATIONS

”The state needs to step up to the plate and help our school districts financially to be able to take the steps that are necessary for our teachers and students to be safe,” said State Sen. Vincent Sheheen, D-District 27.

They’re also advising schools to potentially revise their budgets and build in contingencies because they still don’t know how much state or federal CARES Act funding each district will receive.

The General Assembly is expected to finalize the 2020-21 state budget when it reconvenes in September.

AccelerateED is accepting input on these recommendations until Thursday at 10 am. You can email feedback to accelerate@ed.sc.gov.

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